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Shelby Stanger: It's 7:00 AM in Del Mar in San Diego, California. I'm sitting at the beach with about a dozen junior high school and high school age students who are about to meditate for 10 minutes. Then, they'll swim in the open ocean in giant waves, and then, start classes for the day. I am Shelby Stanger and this is Wild Ideas Worth Living.
John Allcock: Let's start getting to the normal position, legs loose, back relatively straight, shoulders relaxed. We'll start by ringing the bell. What I want everyone to do is to pay attention to the bell, intensely, to the exclusion of everything else. Try to listen to the bell until the end of the sound. Now, we're going to have the train come [laughs] and help us. Here we go.
[bell sound]
Shelby: You know, what's next? A half a mile swim in the open ocean. Because it's winter in San Diego, the surface happens to be giant. There's about 10 feet plus of swell out there and high surf advisory. I'm with kids ages 11 and 19 who are current students and alumni from Sea Change, a private school located steps from the beach in Del Mar, California.
With a focus on educational experience that promotes mindfulness, academic studies, physical fitness and more, this small alternative school is helping kids, teaching them mindfulness, and taking them to achieve goals like an upcoming one of swimming the entire English Channel this coming August. You just heard from John Allcock, the Co-Founder of Sea Change and Director of Mindfulness. He's leading the kids in a meditation exercise. I met John, the Co-Founder of the school, also a Harvard educated trial lawyer at one of the top law firms in San Diego, and his book signing earlier this year.
His book, Forty Things I Wish I'd Told My Kids, is about his journey into what he's learned from mindfulness. On my morning runs, I'd see John with these young kids meditating, then charging the open ocean swimming in just their swimsuits even when the water was freezing. I was curious, so I reached out. John's journey to finding mindfulness is something-- I think a lot of you may resonate with.
John: As a practicing lawyer, had been practicing law for a long time, and ran into some challenging times in my life as we all do. I turned to mindfulness. This is around 2002, 2003, around that time period, I started reading, I started meditating on my own, I went to a number of mindfulness retreat.
Shelby: Do you mind giving us a little bit more on what you're going through because I think everybody can relate to going through something hard?
John: Yes, I was going through a divorce and all kinds of other problems that relate to that, and carrying on a full-time workload. I had three daughters at the time which is what gave rise to the book. Life was--
Shelby: Life was happening.
John: It's happening. I wanted to find a better way of dealing with the day to day.
Shelby: First, I'd love for you to just tell us, going to do a silent retreat from being a lawyer who's probably lived a pretty fast pace lifestyle. I read your resume. That must've been a shocker.
John: Oh my God. It's amazing. You sit down. They say, "Okay. Pay attention to your breath." It sounds really simple. Then, about fifteen minutes into it, I was thinking of nine million things other than paying attention to your breath and then you're an hour and a half into it. Then, you're two hours into it. Then, you're a day and a half into it. [laughs] It's just amazing, what happens when you actually sit down and inspect what's going on inside your mind.
Shelby: That was almost 20 years ago. Do you remember how challenging it was those first--?
John: Absolutely. Actually, the first five chapters of the book really arise directly as a result of those initial experiences.
Shelby: John's referring to his book, Forty Things I Wish I'd Told My Kids, which is actually how I met him. I went to a book signing, Johnny, my fiancée had found it. He was like, "Hey, we should go to this." Went to a book signing at a local book shop and found out there is more to this man than being an author and a lawyer. You've worked as an attorney for, I guess, your whole adult life?
John: Whole life, yes.
Shelby: How did you go from being an attorney to creating this curriculum including mindfulness into this school, Sea Change?
John: I was very interested in mindfulness, I wrote the emails.
Shelby: The emails to your daughters?
John: Correct, yes.
Shelby: That became the premise for your book?
John: Right. What happened on the book side was in Father's Day of 2009, I decided that I would start sending emails to my three daughters trying to teach them what I had been learning about mindfulness. I started writing them emails, I didn't really think at the time that it would turn out to be a book.
Shelby: Can you tell me about one of these or two of these emails? They sound beautiful.
John: The first chapter of the book is actually very close to the first email that I wrote and the first chapter is Don't Be Ruled by the Tyranny of Events. The very first email that I wrote said, "Look, I've discovered that you really don't have to let external events control your mind state and mindfulness will allow you to live a happy life even if external events don't end up being the way that you want them to be."
Shelby: We'll get more into mindfulness and the book later. You're working as an attorney, you get into mindfulness, it changes your life, how do you go from there to creating this curriculum for Sea Change?
John: I met Cheryl, my wife now, and she had run a school for roughly at that time probably about 20 years or so. She's a licensed clinical social worker. She started the school because she had an after-school care program for challenged kids. She realized that the short time that she had with them after school was not sufficient to effect the change, so she expanded, expanded, expanded the program. Finally, created an academic curriculum from scratch, got it WASC approved.
This is over 15 years ago and had a school for many, many, many years that was primarily directed to challenged kids. It did have the swimming component to it, but it didn't have the mindfulness component to it. I met her, I got involved in the school, I started swimming, I never swam before, I started swimming--
Shelby: How much swimming was in the school then?
John: Not as much as now. When I first met her, they were starting to do things like Alcatraz. The school always had swimming as a big component of it.
Shelby: It's junior high and high school?
John: We take fourth, fifth graders and up. Occasionally, we'll take a kid younger than that if the kid is very, very mature, but our sweet spot is really fourth, fifth graders and up.
Shelby: You meet Cheryl, you start doing a little bit of swimming.
John: Right. Then I said, this mindfulness would be really good and Cheryl actually thought of an almost at the same time would be really good for the students. By that time, the book had been written but not yet published. We started using the manuscript in seminars in the school and the kids were really, really interested in it. At that time, there was no school that I was aware of. I think that's pretty much true until today that has a mindfulness curriculum that is integrated into the actual school curriculum.
There's quite a number of schools that have mindfulness components that are-- I would call them bolt on things where they have a mindfulness aspect, 20-minute class a day or something, but none that is woven into the heart and the soul of the school like it is at our place. Cheryl and I get certified by the mindful schools project as instructors. I had been meditating at that point for almost a dozen years. We constructed a curriculum, part of which you experienced this morning.
There's basically 40 weeks that are organized in a progressive fashion that starts with a concentration practice, then goes into mindfulness practice, then goes into intention developing practices. That's what we're doing.
Shelby: In the morning I spent at Sea Change, it was clear that this place is having a true impact. I heard from kids, some who used to struggle in school who are now finding success, kids who talk about the environment and nature in a mature and inspired way, and kids who've learned to recognize what they really want for their friendship and for their futures. Early on in the morning, I talked to a young woman, named Nadia.
[music]
Nadia Birmingham: Nadia Birmingham.
Shelby: How long have you been swimming?
Nadia: Two years.
Shelby: What's the swimming like for you?
Nadia: Great. I like it. I like the big waves and going under them, it's pretty fun.
Shelby: How far did you go?
Nadia: We all usually go like a mile and a half or so. We usually go to the buoy and come back a few times or go to the half out there.
Shelby: How is swimming impacted your school?
Nadia: Feel like it makes me more mindful.
Shelby: Makes you more mindful?
Nadia: Yes, because it makes me a more calm. I love the ocean.
Shelby: You love the ocean, why?
Nadia: I like the color blue and I like seeing the creatures out there because dolphin and stingrays are my favorite animals.
Shelby: Really, stingrays?
Nadia: Yes, I just like seeing stuff out there.
Shelby: That's so funny. What else you like about swimming? What goes to your head when you swim?
Nadia: Well, when I go out there, I think of my dolphins coming up to me and I usually just have fun.
Shelby: So cool. Did dolphins ever come up to you?
Nadia: Only once. [chuckles]
Shelby: What it was like?
Nadia: It was fun. They were big.
[music]
Shelby: Well, I'm curious, what value is it added to these kids' lives?
John: Well, I mean honesty, courage, self-care, compassion, collegiality. Those are major intentions that we try to foster in the kids. No one's perfect, you're never going to always act with those intentions behind you, but if you would act every day with those intentions in your mind, it's going to be a better day than if you acted with some other intentions like greed or like anger or any of the other intentions that can lead you into very, very unhappy places both in the short-term and especially in the long-term.
Shelby: For me, it's worry.
John: Yes, worry's big. Worry and anxiety is big. One of my favorite chapters is Caring, Planning, and Worrying Are Three Different Things. We think that worrying about somebody is caring about them, it's the exact opposite. You need to care about someone. You need to think about them and be concerned about them and take action, wise action to help them. Any worrying past that point isn't helping them, it's just sapping your strength to help them in the future.
Shelby: Let's talk more about the kids and how it's affected them. I know you have statistics that show how the mindfulness curriculum has impacted these kids. Can you share any of those stats?
John: We from personal observation think that our kids have the same benefits that other broader statistically significant studies have shown. Increased ability to pay attention, increased self-care, particularly when you weave the thing into the curriculum, increased collegiality and ability to manage others, and manage your relationships with others. We found all that to be the case.
Shelby: How young was the youngest kid out there today? There was a little boy who was in the whitewash.
John: I think Ayden is 10. I think he's 10.
Shelby: There was 10 to 19 years old today. The alumni was 19.
John: I think that's right.
Shelby: 17-year-olds. They're all out there in the huge waves. How is the mindfulness training helped the kids hit their world record-setting goals?
John: Well, I can think of one story. This girl, she wasn't there this morning. She's an alumni. She was there yesterday. She's going to be there later in the week. She was deathly afraid of jellyfish. Now, jellyfish aren't going to kill you. We talked about the mindfulness approach and how to deal with fear because fear is a very, very debilitating emotion and particularly in modern American society. All you have to do is put in anxiety and epidemic into the internet. You'll get 25 New York Times articles, half of them about teenagers.
We really focused a lot on what to do when you feel fear and how mindfulness can be applied to feel the fear, but let it go, not reject it, not run from it, not be afraid of it. To recognize that it's an instinct, but to just breathe through it and realize that it's a passing emotion. It'll go if you don't stick your mind with a story that propagates it. That's one example that I can tell you for sure that she was able to power through three hours and was able to do it with dealing with the fears that she had.
Shelby: What about the jellyfish?
John: She never got stung.
Shelby: That's awesome.
John: She never got stuck. It's like 99% of our worries never occur, right? 99% of them never occur. We spend so much time worrying about things that never happen.
Shelby: Someone said worrying is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but it doesn't get you anywhere.
John: Yes, it saps you.
Shelby: How has mindfulness in your curriculum helped kids improve their grades?
John: I think it increases their ability to pay attention and their ability to focus on things. Our kids tend to do really very well on standardized tests. I think that's because they have an ability to really focus and pay attention.
Shelby: How about their behavior? To me, it was crazy that there was 11-year-olds hanging out with 17-year-olds and they were all cheering each other on. There's a little bit of joshing like joking around but not-- no one was mean, everyone was really supportive.
John: Yes, that's where mindfulness really finds its way into the life blood of the school. If you were to spend a day there, you would hear things like one kid saying to the other, "That's not very mindful," when the kid does one thing or another that is considered out of bounds. I'm serious, it's really amazing. I think it really creates a level of self-care and a level of paying attention to the needs of others.
I think the cross age thing which is Cheryl's idea, she has been doing that forever, is brilliant because the older kids actually learn a lot from managing and helping with the younger kids. It's really amazing.
Shelby: That's interesting. We talked to one young man today, I think his name was Matt who shared his story of having gone to the school. He basically said, "Yes, it was really hard for me before." Now, he says that the school changed his life. He wouldn't have been able to do what he does if he had gone to another typical public high school in San Diego.
John: It's been life changing for a lot of people. The mindfulness is a big part of it, the academic curriculum is a big part of it, the physical fitness is a big part of it.
[music]
Shelby: My conversation with Matt was one of my favorites of the day. As an alumni currently attending the University of Michigan and studying engineering, Matt has a perspective on Sea Change that a lot of the current students just don't have yet.
Shelby: You're a graduate?
Matt: Yes, I am an alumni here, Sea Change Prep.
Shelby: Are you shivering because it's so cold?
Matt: Yes, that's the idea. I haven't swim or done anything in open water for good three months now. When I was 11, I started here, when I was young. I was just like a misfit in school, I got kicked out of four schools.
Shelby: Four schools?
Matt: Four, yes, and it's a good record. I couldn't make it in four schools. I came here, stayed here for seven years.
Shelby: From what grade to what grade?
Matt: Sixth grade to the end of high school. The thing is that I have a lot of anxiety and a lot of things that can really slow me down in life. Anxiety is probably the biggest one just like social anxiety. I'll have a lot of emotional problems at times. Depression happens too, not to the extent that some people have it but definitely a little bit for me. Basically, here, I learned healthy ways to deal with that. Mindfulness and the physical exercise is a major component. That was really hard to bring that to Michigan.
I wouldn't have made it out of San Diego had it not been for this school. There's no way I would have been in Michigan had it not been for this school. I would have been a complete disaster, really if I went anywhere else because they really understand. Cheryl and the school and the way the school works, they just really understand cases like mine. Here, everyone is real. Everyone has actual problems and things that they can talk about that aren't just superficial. That's something that I really learned. That's something that really makes a difference by being here.
Here, it just gave me the best possible social environment. I understand myself and understand actual things and understand other people. I gained a lot of empathy from being here. That's one of the things that happened. Empathy, the ability to actually see someone struggling and be able to emphasize and see it and relate to a lot of different people. Also, sympathy, of course. I learned to get out of myself here. That's one of the most important things that helps a lot of people is once they get out of themselves, it's hard.
A lot of times, for me, especially if I stay in myself and I'm selfish and egotistical or if I'm self-centered and I feel like everything revolves around me, it ends up being a really unhealthy cycle. Here, you really, really learn to get out of yourself. You learn to be part of the team in a really healthy way. They're still doing it. The swimming, the camaraderie that you get out of the swimming is very, very similar to what it was. A lot of things have changed about the school, but I'm really happy that this is still here.
All these kids are changing. All kids have never mixed, but here, they're best friends. The camaraderie here is I think it's understated how much that helps, how much it helped me, and how much it helped these kids. The reason why I can say that would now is because the perspective I've got when I attended a big public school and that kind of environment in University of Michigan, it's just so different than what I had here.
Shelby: These kids don't just meditate for fun, it's helped them cross some major channels including the English Channel. More on that after the break.
[music]
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Because there's a high surf advisory, Dan Simonelli, a world-class open ocean swimming coach and one of about 1,800 people to do a solo swim of the English Channel himself is helping give me and the kids some directions before we get out to the quarter-mile buoy. I'm the only wearing a wet suit. The water is absolutely freezing but these kids who called themselves the zombies mostly because they have to get up pretty early to go swimming. They're just in their swimsuits.
Dan Simonelli: All right guys, listen up. Similar plan of yesterday except it's a different day and the waves are a little bigger. Those of you that can try and get out, just remember if a big set comes, you could always retreat and come back. Pay attention to your landmarks, always looking for the tower, the smokestack. If you're getting pushed all the way down, I think the shore currents going down, going south again. If you're getting pushed down into the grass, come all the way back in walk down and go back out.
Shelby: Getting these kids in the water is one thing but getting them in the open ocean especially when Mother Nature is providing some of the biggest waves we've seen this year is another. This practice takes going with the flow to the absolute max. San Diego's not the only place these kids have been in the open ocean. Traveling and swimming relays across some major bodies of water helps the students with goal setting and teamwork not to mention allows them to travel the world, see some amazing places, and set some huge records. It also looks pretty dang good on college resumes.
I think open water swimming too is specifically-- You go in a pool but the open ocean is another element.
John: It's a totally additional dimension. What we do once a year or sometimes twice is we do real open ocean. In July, we swam from Ischia, an island off the coast of Italy in the Mediterranean, to San Benedetto which is 15 miles away. You get on a boat, you jump off the boat into the open ocean, you swim for an hour, and we do six-person relays. After you swim freestyle for an hour, with the boat aside you, someone else comes in tags, you get out. Five hours later, you're going again, and you keep the rotation going.
Shelby: It's the junior high and high school swimming at night. You did these crossings, you did this Italy crossing, you did the Santa Barbara oil rig swim. This summer, you're doing the English Channel crossing.
John: We're going to do the English Channel, I think in August, is when we've got the slot. It's incredibly hard to get slots for the English Channel. A lot of people try to swim the English Channel and very few make it.
Shelby: How can you turn down a team called? Can you tell us your team name?
John: The Zombies.
Shelby: How can they turn down the Zombies to enter the English Channel? That's not a typical Junior High School thing to do.
John: Only 1,800 people have swim the thing solo, and less than 8,000 people total, have swim the thing in relay fashion and we're talking since 1875. A lot of people have tried, way more people fail swimming the English Channel then make it, way more fail.
Shelby: What do you think is the key to these team's success?
John: Well, it's the overall approach. The other thing that I haven't talked that much about is the collegiality. This relay swims, if one kid fails, the whole team fails. The relay is a relay. If one kid doesn't make their hour of swimming, then you're done. There's an interdependence created. Do you'd like that right in your workplace? Can you imagine workplaces where people work that way?
Shelby: Yes, that would be beautiful, but that's incredible. We didn't mention this, but for those of you listening, these kids aren't allowed to wear wetsuits and they're just allowed to wear swim cap and goggles even if it's cold.
John: If we want to swim and the channel regulations, if we want to make it a channel swim, then those are the regulations that we have to swim under. This morning, for example, there were some kids that wore wetsuits because they weren't going to do the channel swim. There are other kids that didn't because they are going to do the channel swim. The training is dictated by the rules of the channel swim organization that you're going for.
[music]
Shelby: Please state your first and last--
Cole Broden: Cole Broden.
Shelby: How old are you?
Cole: I'm 17.
Shelby: You're a junior?
Cole: Yes.
Shelby: Nice. How long have you been here?
Cole: I've been here since December for summer school and then I came here during the school year this year.
Shelby: How was this whole program? What do you think of it all?
Cole: At first, it's hard to get used to it, but once you get used to it, it's really fun to come out here with everyone. I don't know. You how feel you're a family.
Shelby: That's cool. How's your swimming going?
Cole: Good. I used to not be able to swim out to the quarter mile, but now I can swim way farther than that. I've just improved so much.
Shelby: What's it feel like swimming the ocean for you?
Cole: You just feel it's just really cool. It's super fun. You forget how cold it is if you're really enjoying it.
Shelby: Tell me more about how it makes you feel.
Cole: Like flying, you just free in the ocean, you're just gliding through the water.
Shelby: How has it impacted your school and your friends? Does it cause any differences here?
Cole: Not really with my social life. When I went swimming in the ocean in the mornings before school, I feel it wakes me up. The super cold water, it makes me feel more energized, ready to start school.
Shelby: Focused. Have your grades improved?
Cole: Yes, I used to have pretty bad grades, but I came here and now, I had all As and a B.
Shelby: Good job. If you had to give advice to people who want to start a school like this, what would you tell them?
Cole: Just if you want to do it, you should do it and you should just do whatever you want. We have this tiny little area in Del Mar, it's not even a school pretty much. It's a little room and we started all this. You should just do whatever you want to do and just try to do it.
Shelby: How does the mindfulness coincide with the open water swimming?
John: We focus the mindfulness program, as you heard this morning, a lot on controlling your attention and controlling your awareness by as a result of controlling your attention. We use the breath as a primary component as is commonly in the case nowadays in all of the secular mindfulness classes, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, all kinds of mindfulness is very, very breath focused. You use the breath to draw your attention off undesirable thoughts, emotions and put it on intentions and thoughts that you want to place it on.
That's a very useful exercise in life. It's also a very useful exercise when you're swimming in the open ocean.
Shelby: Just thinking, I didn't really do that today. I was thinking, "Oh, my gosh, my fin is off. Oh, my gosh, I'm going to die."
John: Absolutely, right. You go into the open ocean and there's fear, there's anxiety, there's uncomfortableness because of the cold, there's uncomfortableness because of an uncertain environment, there's uncertainty because it's a different situation every day. All of those things, you face in life. When you swim, you have to breathe. The plan and what we try to teach the kids is it's an extension of the mindfulness that we've taught them on the shore. The other thing about swimming is you're alone, so it's the perfect place to practice silent meditation.
The idea is to pay attention to your breath. If you get nervous, don't worry about it, let the nervousness go, pay attention to the breath. When we go into the open ocean, if you're swimming to Molokai, you're going to think that, "Where are those sharks?" or you're going to worry about those jellyfish or the waves or any of the other crazy things that can happen. Again, paying attention to the breath, bringing yourself back to the intention of just swimming and being in the moment.
Shelby: How can more schools incorporate mindfulness?
John: Our hope is that we'll grow. We want to get to about 25 students and our plan is to develop-- The curriculum is already developed, it's probably three quarters written. I'd like to finish the writing of it this year. Our hope would be that we can start to export the curriculum. It would involve, of course, training of people and things like that. Our hope was to get more schools involved in this kind of thing.
Shelby: I think some people listening might be like, "This is so hippy-dippy." You graduated from Boston College with highest honors and philosophy and political science in Harvard Law School cum laude and you're a trial lawyer. This ain't hippy-dippy. You're not a hippy-dippy guy.
John: No, but the amazing thing about that is, what it doesn't say there is, I went through four years with prep High School. I had a really good high school education, a super good college education, and a good law school education. In all those years, I never learned that the mind can do something other than think. No one ever told me that. When I sat on that cushion at Spirit Rock that first time and somebody was saying to me, "Your mind has a capability of awareness that's different from thinking and your breath can unlock that awareness."
I had no idea what they were talking about, so it took quite a while for me to figure out what they were talking about that the mind has a consciousness and awareness. That's really independent of your thinking. As I say in another chapter in the book, it's sort of like Superman and Clark Kent that you can jump into a phone booth and change your mind state by tapping into this awareness capability that no one talks about.
People talk about it now but when I was growing up, and until relatively recently, no one talked about an awareness capability that it was independent of your thinking.
Shelby: I think listeners right now are probably pretty curious or maybe some have dipped their toes into mindfulness, some are heavy into mindfulness, but any other tips just to give people listening more ways to incorporate mindfulness into their everyday life?
John: What I would always tell people is pick a time in the day that you can reliably devote to it. It can be in the morning, it can be in the evening. It's hard to do it in the middle of the day and be reliable, but pick a time that you can devote to it reliably. Start small, five to 10 minutes is all you need. There are tremendous resources available out there in terms of guided meditations, the Jon Kabat-Zinn guided meditations are super, Jack Kornfield guided meditations are absolutely super. Just do a five minute guided meditation.
After one week, do a six- minute guided meditation after three weeks to a 10-minute guided meditation. If you can get up to 20 minutes a day, seven days a week or as close to seven as you can get, you will see material results. I could go on and on about the physiological and the tests that recently have been done with MRIs and active brain scan system, the physiological changes that occur in your brain that have now been absolutely proven. It's pretty amazing.
Shelby: Do you want to share a couple because that's very interesting?
John: Sara Lazar at Harvard, now I guess about five years ago, did MRI studies of people that did 20 minutes to 40 minutes of meditation seven days a week in one of their Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs and compared the MRIs from the beginning to the end and did it to another control group that didn't do the MBSR. They did some other types of activity. The prefrontal cortex grew in the case of them. This is eight weeks, 20 to 40 minutes a day. The amygdala shrank. The amygdala is the thing that produces fear and anxiety and the hippocampus grew.
Those studies have been replicated since then. Very recently, there are the ending of your nerves have these things called telomeres. The longer the telomeres are, the longer you live. They have discovered that mindful meditation lengthens the telomeres and you wonder why Thich Nhat Hanh, is 80 some-years-old and has gone through a couple of strokes and still looks like he's about 50. That's why. There are other recent studies by a guy named Judson Brewer that show that the neural networks that you get stuck in. The default mode network it's called.
That you get stuck in that keep those stories of gloom and doom, repeating, repeating it, repeating, get shut off during periods of mindful meditation. They can shut the default mode network off with mindful meditation. Those are three examples of things that are very-- the Brewer stuff is very, very recent, and the telomere stuff is very, very recent.
Shelby: Well, you sold me. [laughs] Just an FYI, I lost my fins in the surf and didn't even make it to the buoy. It was so embarrassing, but I have a date with these kids to redeem myself next week. The kids at Sea Change Prep, thank you so much for letting me try to hang with you. Thank you to John and Cheryl for founding this awesome school. Thanks to all of you again for listening. You can find more about these kids, their training, and their school at SeaChangePrep.com.
You can also buy John's book, Forty Things I Wish I'd Told My Kids at johnallcock.com. Special thanks to Chelsea Davis, to Annie Fassler who produced this show, and to Jason from REI, who came out to help me record audio and staying with the buoy with me. Please remember wherever you are, hit subscribe. Give us a review on Apple Podcasts or iTunes or wherever you're listening to the show. Tell a friend or 10 and if you want to check out the show notes of this episode, go to REI.com. You can also follow us on Instagram, @wildideasworthliving.
Remember, wherever you are, the best adventures often happen when you follow your wildest ideas. We'll see you in a few weeks. Until then, be mindful.
[00:38:58] [END OF AUDIO]

Here’s the Wild Idea

Back in December I got to spend a morning with the kids at Sea Change Preparatory, a school in Del Mar, San Diego that not only educates junior high and high school students in traditional subjects, but also focuses on mindfulness, physical fitness, teamwork, and goal setting. At Sea Change they begin each day on the beach with a ten-minute meditation and a mile-long swim in the open ocean before starting classes. What’s even more impressive, these kids are training to swim the English Channel as a team this summer.

I sat down with John Allcock, the co-founder and Director of Mindfulness at Sea Change Preparatory, about the impact this kind of education is having on these kids’ lives. John isn’t just an educator though, he’s also a Harvard-educated trial lawyer at one of the top firms in San Diego and the author of Forty Things I Wish I’d Told My Kids, a book about his journey learning mindfulness.

Mindfulness has been a hot topic for a while now, but incorporating it into education is still a relatively new idea. John and the folks at Sea Change Prep are making a huge difference in these kids’ lives, so much so that it made me wonder how long it will be until a meditation practice is commonplace in both our kids’ lives and our own lives. 

Presented by REI

Listen to this Episode if

  • You have or want to start your own mindfulness practice.
  • You believe kids should learn life skills that will serve them in the future.
  • You think there are lessons to be learned in nature.
  • You want to hear from a group of kids swimming the English Channel this summer.

Key Takeaways

  • 2:45 – John went from practicing law every day to writing a book about mindfulness.
  • 6:30 – How John then created a mindfulness curriculum for Sea Change Prep.
  • 11:20 – The huge lessons the kids are taking from this education.
  • 15:30 – How Mindfulness helps these kids improve their academic performance too.
  • 17:50 – Sea Change alum Matt now has a great perspective on the education he got here.
  • 24:30 – Open water swimming opens the world up to these kids (they’re swimming the English Channel this summer!).
  • 29:30 – How the mindfulness practice connects to the swimming component.
  • 31:45 – John hopes that more schools will soon incorporate mindfulness.
  • 34:15 – How to incorporate mindfulness into your every day life.

Resources

Sea Change Preparatory
Forty Things I Wish I’d Told My Kids

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